The game was the same but many of the faces were new as the college basketball season exploded with a roar that left some of the nation's most stalwart contenders for national honors shaken and gasping for breath. Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina State, St. John's, Kansas State and Marquette were among those who stumbled—and there will be others in the weeks ahead.
Long-suffering New York fans, handed a glimmer of hope when St. John's won the NIT last March, got another lift, this time from NYU (see page 46). Coach Lou Rossini's resourceful Violets ran with Marquette's rapid pass-flickers and finally beat the Hilltoppers 70-69 on Al Filardi's hook shot with 45 seconds to play. Although beaten off the boards by Marquette's Don Kojis (who scored 31 points) and Walt Mangham, leapers extraordinary, NYU's Tom Sanders pushed in 22 points and kept the Violets together. Two nights later, the ambitious Sanders again took charge with 21 points and NYU whipped Georgetown 70-48.
However, jittery St. John's blew a 13-point half-time lead and lost to St. Louis 76-67. The Redmen panicked when St. Louis hit them with a full-court press and not even superb Jump-shooter Tony Jackson's 21 points could bail them out.
December 14, 1959
Meanwhile, Navy, Villanova, Seton Hall, St. Joseph's, Manhattan and Dartmouth, all highly regarded in the East, got by early tests.
Georgia Tech, prematurely written off as a contender, suddenly raised eyebrows in the Southeastern Conference. Warming up against nonleague foes, Coach John (Whack) Hyder's Yellow Jackets first startled Duke 59-49, then manhandled Furman 91-63 and ended a fruitful week by downing high-rated Louisville 68-56 on the sharpshooting of Roger Kaiser. Not even Hyder was sure just how far Tech would go, but it might be far enough to cause all sorts of fits in the SEC.
While Kentucky was off learning the facts of life in the West (see page 12), defending champion Mississippi State scored over Southwest Louisiana 83-65 and Troy State 66-50. Auburn lost to the Phillips Oilers 73-65 in overtime; Vanderbilt bowed to Minnesota 72-59.
North Carolina, bursting with talent, hardly missed academically ailing Doug Moe and physically ailing Dick Kepley as it smothered South Carolina 93-56 in an Atlantic Coast opener. Bulky Lee Shaffer led the surge with 25 points and had help from Ray Stanley, York Larese and Harvey Salz. Duke recovered from its Georgia Tech stumble, beat Clemson 68-59; Wake Forest, getting board control from sophomores Billy Packer and Len Chappell, outhustled North Carolina State 73-59.
With deadpan All-America Jerry West sweeping the boards clean, leading the fast break, driving, playmaking, blocking shots and doing the things that come so naturally to him, West Virginia rolled over Tennessee 93-78, The Citadel 98-76 and Furman 96-63 and stretched its Southern Conference streak to 52 straight. William & Mary started almost as fast, beating Virginia 82-70, VMI 79-78 and Tennessee 77-71 while Virginia Tech's sophomores of last year, grown to maturity, beat George Washington 75-52.
Jerry Lucas, Ohio State's eagerly awaited 6-foot 8-inch sophomore, spent some anxious moments (left) learning to fathom Wake Forest's sinking zone, but caught on in time to lift the Buckeyes past the Deacons 77-69. He was even more adept in his next two games, blithely snaring rebounds, tipping in goals and feeding off to Guards Mel Nowell and Larry Siegfried as Ohio State battered Memphis State 94-55, and Pitt 94-49. His three-game totals: 74 points and 66 rebounds.
But, even with Lucas, the Buckeyes have a long way to go before they claim the Big Ten title. Michigan State, minus the stars who carried it to the crown last season, brought down Bowling Green 96-67 and Notre Dame 61-56. The Spartans aren't dying just yet. Neither is Indiana, which breezed past Ball State 103-63.
St. Louis fans who were bemoaning the graduation of Bob Ferry can stop worrying. The Billikens have an adequate replacement in Bob Nordmann, a 6-foot 10-inch, 270-pounder who threw his weight around in wins over Abilene Christian 89-64, St. John's and Kansas State 67-58.
Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson, as marvelous as ever, filled the baskets to overflowing with 88 points, and the Bearcats trounced Indiana State 107-62 and Marshall 102-61.
Kentucky, straying far from comfortable Lexington, spent one night too many in Los Angeles. The Wildcats, after barely squeaking past UCLA 68-66 on Sid Cohen's five points in the last 90 seconds, came back for more the next night and took an 87-73 licking from twice-beaten USC. The Trojans simply outdefended unhappy Kentucky as Captain John Werhas, who scored 19 points, held veteran Bill Lickert to a mere three.
NCAA Champion California, as deliberate as ever, opened with a 59-47 victory over its Santa Barbara branch; Stanford outscored San Francisco 55-49 and San Jose State 69-31, but Gene Womack's last-second field goal dumped the Indians (their first loss in 18 home games) for St. Mary's, 53-51.
Utah, the Skyline favorite, blistered Los Angeles State 104-80. However, trouble looms ahead for the Utes. Utah State's Aggies, who set down Idaho State 86-67, Seattle 85-73 and Portland 74-67, look mean and hungry.
The mercurial Southwest Conference was down to three unbeaten teams—Texas A&M, Texas and Baylor—in its first wearing week of intersectional strife. Arkansas, SMU and TCU were all beaten. One bright spot came from dark horse Baylor, which won three straight over Howard Payne 84-53, Oklahoma State 53-50 and Tulsa 69-54. Another was SMU's surprise victory over Minnesota 73-60.
Philadelphia's magnificent Wilt Chamberlain flipped in 41 points to beat Minneapolis 123-109 and got an admiring moan from Laker Coach Johnny Castellani: "He is devastating, fantastic. He gets the ball and goes right over you." But Boston still had its Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman and ran its winning streak to five to lead the Warriors by 2½ games in the East. St. Louis, with Bob Pettit and Cliff Hagan pushing in points at their usual brisk pace, was 2½ games ahead of Detroit in the West.